CRTC commissioner says the Web’s not hurting traditional media

CRTC Commissioner Raj Shoan
CRTC Commissioner Raj Shoan

The CRTC has no plans to regulate the Internet anytime soon.

Raj Shoan, Ontario commissioner for the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, spoke to students and faculty at Centennial College’s East York campus, on Wednesday. He offered general comments about the future of the commission and the Canadian media marketplace. Then he answered questions from about 100 audience members. He was asked if the CRTC planned to regulate Internet content.

“I don’t see the commission really getting into regulating online content in any meaningful way,” he said.

As an example, he said that broadcasting mainstays such as cable and satellite have not been hurt by the emergence of online content. Until an Interweb giant such as Netflix affects the bottom line of Canada’s traditional broadcasting outlets, Shoan said the commission will remain passive.

“My perspective is that if you’re going to argue that Netflix is destroying your ability to do business, you’d better have some good evidence,” he said. “And right now, I just don’t see the evidence.”

A former law student at the University of New Brunswick, Shoan was appointed Ontario commissioner at the CRTC last July. He had previously led both the CBC and Astral Media in public CRTC hearings as director of regulatory affairs. Shoan was also a member of the commission’s legal counsel from 2004 to 2008, as a senior policy analyst.

The CRTC was founded in 1968 in Gatineau, Que., to replace the Board of Broadcast Governors. Its functions include enforcing Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications policies and granting, renewing and amending broadcasting licences.

“Satellite and cable companies are not losing money,” Shoan said. “(And) people are consuming more broadcast content than ever … an average of 26 hours a week.”

The commission receives its mandate from the federal government and its commissioners are appointed by Parliament.

Shoan was asked about CRTC autonomy, when all of its decisions go to cabinet for approval. Shoan maintained that the CRTC is arm’s length from Parliament.

“I do not report to the government,” he said. “We are independent. … I’ve never had anyone from the government lean on me in any way.”

Shoan’s term ends in July of 2018.